Thoughts on Taking Over a Business – Part 1

There is a lot of talk of practitioners leaving the massage and bodywork field due to COVID-related job insecurity. While I highly recommend you stay (read my recent Call To Action post), this week’s post is for those of you looking to expand or pursue new opportunities. I found this old Natural Touch Marketing two-part article from over 10 years ago, but the suggestions in it are very relevant for today’s opportunity-seekers. So, get out there and keep up the good work! ~ Deanna

A few days ago, I heard from a regular commenter and question-asker, Fran D. She has this great opportunity and wanted a little feedback from you … and me. When last we heard from Fran, she was thinking about leaving a clinic where she shared a room with 3 other therapists and moving out on her own. Here’s what’s going on now:

“Something new has developed. I was offered an opportunity to take over a small spa connected to a doctor’s office. It contains two treatment rooms, dry sauna, use of exercise area, staff room, 1 full bathroom, common waiting, 4 therapists and 3 aestheticians on call, access to 5,000 patient data base. It’s a fabulous locale in the heart of downtown among courts, schools everything. Asking between $1,200 – $1,500 monthly. Not including laundry, supplies, phone, advertising.

She cannot run both her rehab practice and the spa. She’s tried the employee thing was not pleased. Wants someone to take it and run with it. We are looking at a 6-month trial run. She has the same mind set as I in terms of common goals. I can see growth with this connection. I want to know what I need to be mindful of in this type of arrangement.

I want to have in writing all my concerns and additional questions that I need to ask myself, cost to look out for and staff when stepping in. I need to see where the money is going to generate from. There is already a preexisting menu of services, so I don’t need to reinvent the wheel, just to add a little more to this. I am aiming to take over the end of Sept. Just in time to prep for the holidays.”

My first response to this was, “Yippee, for Fran!” My dear, you put that energy out there and look what happened. My second response was to write about 9000 words of advice. It was one of those things where I was trying to cover every, single, possible possibility. Talk about bogged down. I was up to me gums. Not something anyone would want to slog through.

So here’s the toned-down, heavily-edited version. Anyone can see Fran is doing some thinking and being cautiously optimistic. She’s making lists and talking to people and listening to their advice (you never need to take advice, but it’s always good to listen). So this is a great start.

In the Beginning:

It is essential to be very, very clear with the doctor about who is taking care of what responsibilities.

Find out how far your “authority” goes. It is not out of line to do a trial run for six months under one set of conditions (ie: the doctor will give final approval on mailings/menu changes/waiting room redesigns/staff hires) and then agree to re-visit the decision-making assignments at the end of 6 months. In fact, I have found that you end up learning how each other communicates and there is a lot of confidence by agreeing to do this. It’s “safe.” Also, the Final Authority is often weary of having to be involved in decision-making by the end of the run and finds it easier to hand it over to you.

Will you be the supervisor and a practicing therapist? How are you going to be paid? If you want to be both, you need to take a good look at the actual time supervising involves. It’s a lot. And in the beginning, it will be hours and hours and hours.

What kind of support staff will you have? Who will hire and pay for someone? You deserve good money for taking over this part of her practice. If there is no help for you, the doctor will not be getting her money’s worth. No matter how good you are and no matter how organized, you will not be able to do it all and you will not be able to do it well. The supervisor is the one with her head up looking toward the future.

Research the Culture:

In addition to finding out how the business functions, gather as much information as you can about how the spa was run before the doctor contacted you.

How consistent was the clientele? What kind of clients came to this spa? How were clients treated? What kind of damage control (if any) will you have to do?

How were the therapists treated? How are they paid? How were they hired? What was expected of them in terms of time/paperwork/products/dress/general attitude? How do they feel about working in this space? How far out were the therapists booked? Is there or has there been any sort of quality control on their work? What kind of damage control (if any) will you have to do?

You can deal with any answer to these questions but it’s best to know the kind of “culture” you’re walking into. A place where clients come once and never re-book and the therapists feel cast-off will need a certain touch and will need to hear that their concerns will be fixed. If it is a place everyone loves, you will need to assure them that the quality and care will not change.

If there are any red flags, you need to bring them up with the doctor before you commit. Does she know about these problems? Does she feel they are problems? Does she care? How does she feel about you fixing things? Pay attention to your gut at this point. Really.

Money Well Spent:

Before you sign any agreement, I strongly, really, seriously, recommend hiring a legal type to look over the paperwork and translate it into English for you.

  • What will happen to you if the practice fails?
  • What is the consequence of quitting before the end of the 6-month trial run?
  • What if someone trips and falls in the spa’s bathroom? Are you liable for anyone suing the spa or the doctor?

I know you’re a total smarty-pants, but, as the child and wife of lawyers, I am hard-pressed to stay awake through “WHEREAS HEREIN, the party of the first part agrees and covenants to exchange said goods and chattels, with the party of the second part, in exchange for good and valuable consideration agreed upon hereafter and whereupon immediately transacted.” That kind of stuff makes my eyes glaze over. Okay, I don’t think they write contracts like that anymore, but the point is that this is a good occasion to invest in your career’s safety.

… to be continued next week …